Armed with a paint brush and her 1950s inspired DIY outfit, our editorial assistant took to the rooftop to give her kitchen chairs a new lease of life. After getting to grips with the sandpaper, and splashing the paint, she shares her top tips on how to give your old furniture a funky makeover for little more than $100.
If you’re looking to transform a piece of high street furniture into something totally personal and unique, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s a whole new world of joy to discover at your fingertips. The subjects of today’s transformation are my two red kitchen chairs – soon to be an oh-so-sophisticated, high gloss black . Brushes at the ready DIY-ers, it’s time to get creative with these top tips for a furniture makeover.
1. Choose your Design or Theme
You need to make sure that your chosen colour works with the rest of the room, and isn’t something you’ll fall out of love with three hours later. This isn’t a two-minute job either, so considering colours and designs that could slot into multiple rooms – should you wish to rearrange – is good forward thinking.
2. Pick your Paint
It came as a shock to me that IKEA – Hong Kong’s go-to for homewear – doesn’t sell paint. This project called for a trip to an independent hardware shop. If you haven’t spied such a store near your home, use the Dulux online stockist locator, and you’ll likely be directed about four steps down the street. Apparently Dulux paint stockists are one thing we aren’t short of in this city.
Top tip! Read all paint pot labels carefully. If you stop when you hit the word ‘primer’ you may end up with ‘dark red primer’, which darkens your chosen paint colour by a good few shades – changing navy into black for example. Yes, I speak from experience.
3. Prepare your Paint Studio
The term ‘dust sheet’ is a loose guide, with newspaper and even bin bags doing the job just as well. A sunny Hong Kong day is absolutely ideal for speeding up the drying process, so if you have a rooftop or terrace at your disposal, make the most of it. Otherwise, fling open your windows and get the air flowing to prevent lingering paint fumes. Just make sure you secure your dust sheet (or equivalent) to the floor with tape or Blu-Tak to prevent the wind whipping it around and messing up your paintwork.
4. Sand it
If you’re tackling a pre-painted or rough item, you’ll require a coarser grade of sandpaper. Also, I definitely underestimated the amount of sandpaper required – I’d recommend at least two A4 size sheets per chair, which can be ripped in half to make it more manageable to use. The red paint wasn’t entirely removed, but after 30 minutes of sanding in the sweltering heat, I decided to live with the consequences of imperfect preparation, which would easily be masked by my midnight black paint. If you’ve opted for a light coloured paint, however, this stage needs to be a lot more thorough.
5. Wash it
A damp cloth will suffice, but with the sun beaming down and a hose pipe at my disposal, I opted for a time-saving approach. It doesn’t take much to clear away the mess of sanding, so in a couple of minutes you’ll be free to do whatever you please as your newly sanded furniture dries.
6. Prime it
After pleading with four different neighbours for a screwdriver, I triumphantly flicked open my pot of primer – only to realise I had purchased a muddy shade of red. Not ideal, but I wasn’t about to trek back down to the shop. Each coat of a standard kitchen chair uses about 1/4 of a 460ml pot of primer, so purchase accordingly. In the midday heat, the primer dried quickly, making for easy manoeuvring of my object to reach the nooks and crannies. I still managed to get it all over my hands though, and consequently the soap, sink, door handle, and phone. We are still trying to work out how to remove this, so avoid touching everything within reach post-priming if you can.
7. Paint it
It took rather a long time to wash my brush, so take my advice and purchase two (one for the primer and one for the paint). Quantity wise, I used one pot of 460ml paint per chair. Now this may seem obvious, but make sure you paint with the grain of the wood, rather than against it, and leave it to dry completely in between coats. Due to the dark shade of paint I had chosen, two coats was more than enough for complete coverage – I imagine that whites and creams will require a third.
Top tip! Wrap paintbrushes in tin foil and put them in the fridge if you need to pop out or have a break without faffing about with washing all the paint out.
8. Decorate it
This is optional, but a guaranteed way to make your furniture truly unique. You could go for the classic ‘distressed‘ look, which requires a pot of Vaseline and liberal application to the corners and other areas which you desire to be ‘distressed’. Polka dots could look cute in a kooky home, perhaps contrasting colours for chair legs, initials, flowers – go wild. If you’re aiming for some kind of symmetry or uniformity, make a quick stencil out of thick paper. I’m considering some 3D decoration – potentially garlands of fake flowers to be attached with super glue.
9. Gloss it
Post-decoration, my chairs took up residency on the roof for the next week – I love DIY, but even I wasn’t going to start painting by torch light after work. After a week of chair-less dining, however, it was an early morning trip to the paint shop, and a quick coat of gloss on each chair. With just one coat required, this was probably the fastest stage of the lot, and I was done and dusted in time for a mid-morning coffee.
10. Admire it
When your born-again furniture has totally dried, put it back in its place, lure your friends around with the promise of biscuits, and collectively admire your handiwork. Mission complete!